Networking is probably one the most primary skills that is required in a Business world. We could meet a potential client/investor/co-founder in the next Business summit we attend. Having decided on spending next 1-2 years in a BSchool, there are bound to be not one, not two, but hundreds of such opportunities. We might not want to miss out our first venture capitalist or co-founder just because we failed to extend our hand first. :)
Being an introvert, I had a very timid approach to networking. An interaction with Girl Meets Bschool got me thinking about how even I can do just a few simple things to get behind the wheel.
Guest Post – Networking 101 by Girl Meets Bschool
Networking is perhaps the single most important thing you can be doing during the application process. I actually wish I had done more of it! The truth is, in order to demonstrate that you’re a great fit for a certain school, you really need to understand the culture of that school and in order to understand the culture, and you must talk to people. Sounds easy enough, but like you said, there is an etiquette to it.
I would recommend starting with the two most obvious groups: recruiters and student ambassadors. They are great because they talk to potential students all the time so they are used to answering the same questions over and over. Just take their feedback with a grain of salt because they are there to tell you the good parts about the program, not the bad. If you can, try to attend a couple of MBA fairs where you can talk to recruiters face to face. Student ambassadors can usually be found on the school’s website along with their email, so just reach out to them and schedule a phone interview. I liked to pick the student ambassador that had the most in common with me in terms of background and desired function. You will get more useful information out of them that way.
Other people you can reach out to are the presidents of clubs that you want to join. There’s usually an MBA clubs webpage where you can find their contact information. They are usually less familiar with speaking to prospective students, but you can get some great information out of them if you have something in common.
Lastly, there are alums. They are a little less helpful just because they were not in school as recently, but they can speak to the culture of the school, the opportunities you will have, and your job prospects. If you want to speak to alums, I think the best place to start is LinkedIn. See if you’ve already got a 1st or 2nd connection you can reach out to. (On that topic, now is the time to set up your LinkedIn profile or get it your current one up to date!)
Do’s and Don’ts:
- Have some thoughtful questions prepared. Some people will talk and talk without a lot of prodding, but others would prefer you to steer the conversation. Try not to ask anything too obvious or that you could have found out on the website. (They hear the same questions A LOT, so the more creative you can be the better.)
- Don’t ask for personal help like, “Can you read my resume?” or “What do you think my chances are?” That puts them in an awkward position.
- Know when to end the conversation. At a recruiting event, the adcoms have a lot of people to talk to and you will make a better impression if you don’t monopolize their time. For ambassadors and alums, a 15-20 min phone call is usually enough time. Thank them politely and let them off the hook.
- Recruiters, ambassadors, and even alums are all agents of the school — You never know what information they will relay back to the admissions office. Make a good impression! Dress well, speak well, and be prepared with intelligent questions.
- Have a short self-summary ready for when you are asked about your background. “I’ve working in sales for five years, but I’d really like to get into marketing.” …etc. If you can work in something about your interest in the school, so much the better! “I’ve heard your school has one of the top marketing programs in the country. Can you tell me a little about it?”
- Write down who you spoke to, the event, the date, and some notes on what they said. It will help you when writing your essays and in interviews. Get a business card if you can.
- ALWAYS follow up with a thank-you note within 24 hrs. Standard wisdom is to mention the event and something you talked about so they remember who you are. Something like: “Thank you so much for speaking with me at the MBA Fair yesterday. Since I want to focus in international business, it was terrific to hear about your study abroad program. I hope to speak with you again when I visit campus for next month’s information session.”
Girl Meets Bschool is currently walking the corridors of USc Marshall School of business. From what I know, she is super psyched! Thanks girlmeetsbschool for coming to my rescue :).